A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Day 12: Popcorn April 30, 2010

Filed under: colors,cooking,Craft,popcorn — Erin Brambilla @ 10:10 pm
Tags: , , ,

Oh, I was excited for today’s activity, well, tonight’s activity actually. I thought, “THIS will be cool.” And I had all these beautiful visions of how exciting this would be. Making popcorn. REAL popcorn (as opposed to microwave, which is clearly fake). But, alas, never underestimate the power of a 2 year old who would rather do pretty much anything else.

Here’s how I WANTED it to go tonight:

Tonight Zach and I made popcorn. I figure it’s the perfect Friday evening activity. Popcorn and a movie, I feel the start of a new tradition coming on!

While I was busy cooking our risotto for dinner, I had Zach do this simple craft. We made a picture of popcorn out of cotton balls. Trust me when I tell you that if you have some glue, paper plates, cotton balls and construction paper at home, you can make ANYTHING.

After devouring a delicious and healthy meal, Zach and I got started on the evening snack.

First, I put some oil in the pan.

Then, knowing Zach’s affinity for “dumping” things, I let him scoop and dump the popcorn kernels into the same pan. I used a pan with a clear lid so he could peek in and watch the magic happen.

I set him a safe distance back from the heat of the stove, but left him close enough to lean over and watch the action. I turned on the stove and started the rhythmic shaking back and forth. Since the shaking was so fun, we sang this little song:

“Popcorn! Popcorn! Pop! Pop! Pop! Shake it! Shake it ’til it’s hot!!”

Then when the kernels started jumping, I held the pan at an angle he could see. You should have seen his face light up!! Talk about something more exciting that watching cupcakes bake in the oven (which is something we all know he likes to do!!).

After the corn was popped, I poured some into a little cup and let him enjoy his evening snack!

Magical. Right? Here’s what REALLY happened:

While I got the risotto started for dinner tonight, I showed Zach how to do a simple craft. First, I drew a picture of a popcorn kernel on a piece of white paper.

Don't be jealous of my mad drawing skillz

Then I cut it out and set it on a paper plate (more for a place mat than anything else). I squeezed some glue out on another plate and laid out some cotton balls.


The idea was SO simple. Take a cotton ball, dip it into the glue, and place it on the picture of the popcorn kernel. The idea was to make it look fluffy, like a real popcorn kernel. I did a few to show Zach how it’s done, then I let him go to town. Except, well. He didn’t.

Pushing the artwork back to me

I joked with him. I asked him. I BEGGED him to “Please buddy. Will you do this project with me? We’re making popcorn. Just dip the ball into the glue. That’s all.” Nope. Not gonna happen. I did finally convince him to stay in his chair and do the craft with me by basically allowing him to grab my hand and direct it where to go. So, I’d grab a cotton ball. He’d grab my wrist and push it toward the glue, we’d dip the cotton ball. Then I’d say, “OK. Where does it go?” and he’d grab my wrist and push it towards the popcorn kernel picture. I guess that works.

After we’d glued all of our cotton balls on, I glued the picture to a piece of construction paper. What a masterpiece!

I know. It's just lovely

Then, after we ate our risotto, I called him over to the stove to help me make our evening snack. REAL popcorn!

Lovely golden kernels

I poured some oil into a saucepan, just enough to cover the bottom. Then I let him dump the kernels in (as well all know, Zach likes to “dump” things).

Dumping in the kernels (the stove is off at this point)

And this is where it all went downhill. I moved him aside and let him sit on the counter. If only popcorn kernels popped instantly!! That might have saved me. I thought it might go well. I leaned the pot at an angle for him to see it, I showed him it was a clear lid. I told him that the magical kernels would transform into something else. He glanced in my direction, somewhat indifferently. Then. The CHOCOLATE on the counter caught his eye. Darn you chocolate!!! Hershey Kisses in a tin, still leftover from when we made cupcakes last week (and really, leftover from long before that).

“Choc-it Mommy. Want Choc-it.”

The popcorn was a goner. I let him have one piece.

“OK buddy. Let’s watch for the popcorn.”

We watch. Nothing. Crud.

“Hey. I know what we can do! Let’s sing a popcorn song while we wait. It goes like this:

Popcorn! Popcorn! Pop! Pop!….”

He interrupts me, “Want down. Down.”

“But Zach! The popcorn. It’s going to start popping soon! Don’t you want to watch it?”

“Want down. Down. Down. DOWN!!!!”

I gave in, no use having him yell anymore. I set him on the ground and he happily ran away to find trucks. Maybe if I’d have let him scoop the popcorn with a dump truck, this may have gone better.

And wouldn’t you know it, the INSTANT he was out of sight, the corn started popping. Figures.

Of course, he had no problems EATING the popcorn.


I will say though. He did make me incredibly proud today. As I was getting ready to cook dinner, I pulled a pack of stop light peppers out (you know the green, red and yellow peppers packaged together). I needed them for the dish. He said, pointing to the peppers, ‘Mommy. What is it?” I said, “Bell Peppers”. And he repeated, “Oh, peppers.” I asked him to show me the red pepper. And he did! And just in case it was a fluke, I asked him which was the green pepper, and he got that too! Then, going for the hat trick (that’s a hockey term, for those who don’t know…GO WINGS), I asked him which was the yellow pepper and he got that one right too! I know that probably seems like not such a big deal, but for MONTHS absolutely everything, when you ask him what color it is, has been yellow. This proves that he has been learning. I love that!!

What did Zach learn today? What bell peppers are. And he showed me he knows at least 3 colors.

What did Mommy learn? Sometimes you just gotta press on and do this stuff yourself. Maybe we’ll get a book from the library about popcorn and talk it up for a few days first, instead of a few hours. And maybe if we make it in the middle of a day instead of at night, he might pay more attention.

Side note? Popcorn kernels would be excellent in both a sensory tub and a paper plate tambourine!


Day 11: Playdate April 29, 2010

Playdate: Noun, \ˈplā-ˌdāt\–: a play session for small children arranged in advance by their parents. (That’s straight from Miriam Webster).

I was going to say that playdates are the socialization of young children. But then, given the current political environment these days, “socialization” might be taken the wrong way. You might think I’m raising a 2-year-old communist. When actually what I’m doing is trying to get him to make friends.

Playdates are important on many levels. 1.) They provide a social outlet for children and this helps them learn to behave in society. 2.) They provide a social outlet for MOMMY. It’s a good hour or so of time where we moms get to talk to other adults, even if it is about our kids. We get to chat with someone who will respond to our queries with more than. “No. Want cookies!!!” Though sometimes I do want a cookie. 3.) They (hopefully) provide a bit of physical activity for our children. The “PC” reason to be thankful for that is the exercise it provides. The REAL reason–it tires them out enough to take a good nap!

Today Zach, Emily, Isaac and I met our friends at the playground. I won’t list their whole names, in case they don’t want to be mentioned on a public blog on the internet, but it was a fun day with K, E1 and E2. There’s not a whole lot to say about the playground itself. I mean, it was a playground. We swung on swings. We slid down the slide. We ran and jumped and yelled and laughed. We stole shared snacks with other kids. All around a good time. Though this particular playground did have something different from others I’ve been to. And it was something that, of course, instantly attracted Zach–A FIRE TRUCK playscape. He spent quite a bit of time steering the truck, making the siren noise and climbing all over it.

Driving the fire truck (another one)

Instead of elaborating on the playground itself. I thought I might enlighten you all on what it’s like to actually GET to a playground with Zach these days. People often assume that it’s the babies that make getting somewhere tough. But really, it’s 2-year-old curiosity. This is how our 2 block trip from the car to the play ground went.

About to start our walk from the car to the park

Me: “OK buddy. Let’s start walking! Time to go to the playground.” I wave my arm toward me to beckon my child to follow me.

Z: “Yeah! Playground! Slide! RUN!!!!” Zach begins to run as fast as he can down the street. His running pace is actually pretty quick and requires me to walk briskly beside him to make sure he doesn’t run into a street. At this pace, we’ll be to the playground in just a few minutes. Which is good. Because as per usual lately, Mommy is running late.

Z: “Run! Run! Run! I running Mommy. Mommy, I running! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”

Me: “Yes. You are running. You run so fast. You…” I stop and turn around, realizing he is no longer next to me. And now I see that distraction number 1 has been found. DANDELIONS. And they are EVERYWHERE. You see, it’s the time of year where dandelions litter lawns and the grass along the side-walk. You can’t walk 2 feet without seeing one. And you know what that means? Zach is going to stop at every.single.one.

Z: “Fwower (that’s flower..in case you couldn’t tell). Fwower mommy! Fwower. One, Two, Fee, Four, Six, Semen. Semen Fwowers Mommy.”

Me: “Oh! Did you find flowers. Wow. Those are pretty flowers. Thank you so much for picking…..”

Z: “Run! Run! Run! Run!” Runs off, no longer interested in flowers, dropping all but one.

Me, struggling to keep up: “Zach! Wait! Please don’t run ahead of Mommy!”

Zach, slows down enough for me to catch him. We are now walking at a reasonable pace together.

Me: “Are you excited to see your friends E1 and E2? Are you excited to play with th…” I stop. Turn around to see what is distracting him NOW.

Zach: “Twee. Twee mommy. Twee.” He is hugging a tree. Literally, physically hugging it. Not in the “hippie-cloth-toilet-paper” sort of way, but in the “I-have-my-arms-around-this-tree” sort of way.

Me: “You’re right! That’s a tree!” I Wait a few seconds to see if he’ll move along. Nope. Still hugging the tree, “OK buddy. Let’s keep walking. We have to keep walking if we’re going to see our friends at the playground.”

Zach: “Run! Run! Run! Run!….AHHHHHHH!!! FWOWER! FWOWER! FWOWER!!!” He had begun running, only to realize a few steps in that he had dropped his beloved dandelion somewhere between there and the tree. He is now devastated. Luckily, I spot a patch of 3 dandelions just 2 steps ahead (and 2 steps away from there).

Me: “Oh no! Did you lose your flower? I see three more right here!”

In true toddler bipolar fashion, he goes from screaming to giggling in .02 seconds with this news. Then Zach runs over and picks the flowers, “Run! Run! Run! Run!”

Phew! Good thing I spotted the next 3 flowers!

And…it pretty much goes on repeat cycle from there. We’re lucky we didn’t spot something so interesting as dog poop. Or cigarette butts. ::shudder:: 20 MINUTES LATER, we arrive at the park. PHEW! This is already exhausting! And THAT my friends, is why going anywhere with a toddler (with or without the babies in tow) takes 3 times longer than it ever would without the toddler. So, if you do not have children, take it easy on your friends who do. You never know how long these things will take.

What did Zach learn today? Social graces such as sharing and waiting to take a turn (especially on the swings). I also hope he’s building a bond with kids who will be his friends.

What did Mommy learn today? That as much as it slows me down, I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of him picking me dandelions. And I certainly enjoyed hanging out with K. Getting that little bit of adult time in during the week is SO necessary. Oh, and the world is FASCINATED by twins. Ugh! This may be a topic/story for another post. But sometimes I do tire of feeling like we all exist in a fishbowl these days.


Day 10: Apple Pancakes April 28, 2010

Filed under: cooking,language development,letters — Erin Brambilla @ 4:58 pm
Tags: ,

Moving along with our Letter A theme this week, we made some applesauce pancakes this morning for breakfast. Cooking with Zach is one of my favorite activities to do with him. He seems to enjoy it as well. Watch out Emeril, Bobby and Tyler…Zach is coming through!

To begin, I started out with a recipe I found online: Mom’s Applesauce Pancakes. The only issue was that I didn’t have any pancake mix, as it calls for in the recipe. So, I also followed this one, up until the addition of wet ingredients: Good Old Fashioned Pancakes. So, taking the dry ingredients from the second recipe, I then followed the 1st one for the rest. I think using a homemade pancake mix is better anyway. Bisquick and other types of mixes have partially hydrogenated oils in them. Did you know that? Partially hydrogenated oils = trans fat = bad. And since it’s pretty much just as easy to take a few cups of flour and add a few teaspoons of baking powder as it is to scoop out some Bisquick, there’s really no love lost by making it yourself (and now I’ll step off of my ‘make things from scratch’ soap box). I had intended to use whole wheat flour instead of all purpose, but I didn’t have enough. Add that to the grocery list, please!

So, together with my assistant, we mixed up the ingredients.

Dumping in the flour

Stir, stir, stir

The process was pretty fun today. Zach is starting to become much more involved in it. Rather than just doing what I tell him, he’s beginning to recognize ingredients and what to do with them. For instance, he can crack an egg. That’s right, this crazy mom lets her 2-year-old crack eggs. With my hand VERY close by, he taps it gently on the counter, I take it from him to separate the shell and pour into the bowl. He’s also started asking questions with ingredients he may not recognize, like baking powder. I got out the container, and he said, “What is it?” and I said, “Baking powder”, and he said, “Oh,” as if that’s all the explanation he needed. Then I had to kindly ask him to stop sticking his finger in the bowl of baking powder and flour, it was SO not ready to taste yet! However, after the addition of other yummy stuff, a finger full might not be so bad. All good cooks taste first, right?

Let's see, does it need anything? Nope. It's just right.

While we were adding the Applesauce, today’s star ingredient, I was talking about A is for Apple, Apple Pancakes!! I chanted it over and over again. And he said, “Letter A. Animal Crackers!” As if I couldn’t be proud enough of that recollection alone, he added a NEW “A” word. He said, “Letter A. Awesome!”

Um…YES! Letter A IS for Awesome! Holy Moly. The kid is a genius!! I’m thinking he connected that one from the incredible Fridge Phonics song we sang on Monday (“An A Says ‘Ah!'”). Ah… Awesome. Very similar sounding! It’s truly amazing to see their little brains working right in front of your very eyes!!

So, we sang and talked and he played awhile while I cooked our breakfast. They turned out pretty yummy!

Yummy! Pay no attention to that burnt one on the bottom!

As we were eating, I asked Zach if the pancakes were yummy. And he decided that he’s now much too smart and sophisticated for a juvenile word like “yummy” because he told me that they were, “delicious!”.

Mmmm. Delicious!

I had another craft on the to-do list for today, but Zach was in a much more sing-songy mood. He got out his Alphabet Pal toy, switched it to music mode and sat and sang with me all morning. In an effort to let HIM lead the way when possible, I ditched the craft and sang away. Maybe we’ll be more crafty tomorrow!

What did Zach learn today? For starters, how to make pancakes. He also worked on more phonics of the letter A. And recollected some learning from earlier this week. Let’s not forget the addition of “delicious” to the vocab.

What did Mommy learn today? That the mind of a 2-year-old is amazing!

What are you all learning right NOW? I’m ditching the numbers in each day’s title. It’s looking too busy up there. If you MUST know how many minutes have passed for this number of days: take the day number, multiply by 1440. There you have it. Today takes us through 14400 minutes of this year.


Day 9 (11521-12960m): Children’s Museum April 27, 2010

Filed under: Childrens Museum,family,field trip,fire trucks,sensory,water play — Erin Brambilla @ 10:04 pm
Tags: ,

Nice face, Chris

Today had the potential to be awe-some! It really did. All the ingredients were there. Free pass to the museum from the library? Check! Uncle Chris with a day off to spend with us all? Check! Super cool exhibits FULL of stuff Zach is obsessed with? Check! Excited and enthusiastic toddler? Ch…oh…um…no. It wasn’t so much that Zach was poorly behaved today, or that he didn’t participate, it’s just that he was indifferent. I guess you never can tell what will be a hit or a miss, or a good day or a bad day. Maybe we’ll come back again another time and it’ll be better. I mean, come ON….

There was Firetruck Stuff:

Driving the firetruck

Coming down from the big ladder

And there was construction and building:

Trying to lift the tool box of wing nuts, bolts and washers

Helping Uncle Chris build a house with the "scoop driber" (that's toddler speak for screw driver, in case you couldn't tell)

and splashing in water:

Building fountains in the water

And digging for dinosaurs!

Discovering dinosaur bones

Come on! "Shobels" are probably his favorite thing in the world and he would barely dig!

But there were no smiles to be found on this kid. Anywhere. He was very, very serious. And if he noticed me coming with the camera, all bets were off. I can’t decide if he was trying to concentrate or if he was just tired or if he was purposefully trying to do whatever the opposite of what we were showing him was. Whatever it was, I hope he had fun, despite the poker face. He was pretty obsessed with anything that had a steering wheel though.The aforementioned firetruck, a Jeep, and a little red car.

Driving the car

Cleaning the windows

Changing the tires

Oh, and let’s not forget. The front loader and dump truck. Just like the set he has at home!! Of course you know THOSE were a hit!

Wow. If there was some dusty furniture in this picture, I might think we were at home. The dump truck and front loader, always a hit. The kid knows what he likes.

Last, but not least, my favorite room, the “MOVE!” room. It was full of things for the kids to climb, slide and jump on. It should really be called the “Wear your kids out before nap time” room, but that would probably be hard to fit on a sign.

Trampoline like thing--blurry, but he's getting some good air!

A hill to climb and slide down

Jumping from cushion to cushion

Looking back at all the pictures, it was a pretty good day. We did a lot. I just wish I could tell if Zach really enjoyed it. It’s the kind of place that makes me wish I was a kid again so I could go back and enjoy it myself. Kids just don’t know how cool things are!

Guess who did have fun though? Check out these smiles!

This is the grin that greets me in the mornings, tell me you're not jealous!

So happy and smiley! She was chatting away!

What did Zach get out of it? Well, some physical activity is always good. He also got to work on motor skills (especially in the building room). He got to be a little bit scientific while building fountains–which way would the water go next by connecting pipes? what do I have to do to get the water to flow this way? or that? He also got to bond with his Uncle Chris, which is always fun.

What did Mommy get out of it? Well, getting out of the house for a whole day is ALWAYS fun. And it was cool to see what Zach would do next. In the room with all the cushions to jump on, he just went up and started doing it. No prompting, no lessons, he just knew to jump from one to the next. I thought that was cool. We have the kind of couch that doesn’t have cushions, so he’s never done that before, yet he just knew to do it. And, you can lead a horse to pasture, but you can’t make it eat. We would take him from exhibit to exhibit, but participation was not always there. I have to get better at letting HIM lead these things and not place my adult expectations on him.

What did Uncle Chris get out of it? Hopefully a fun day off of work. And, um, that 3 kids out and about is A LOT of work. That’s probably birth control enough for a few more years. LOL!


Day 8 (10081-11520m): Letter A April 26, 2010

Filed under: Craft,letters,music,sensory — Erin Brambilla @ 5:29 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Today’s lesson brought to you by: The Letter A. A for Animal. And Animal Crackers.

A few months ago, while shopping at a certain “R Us” store, I came across the world’s biggest bag of Animal Crackers. Not only was it huge, it was CHEAP. And since I’m a sucker for things in bulk, especially cheap things in bulk, I bought them. The strange part was that up until that time, I couldn’t even tell you if Zach had ever eaten an animal cracker. Talk about a gamble. Even cheap things are a total waste of money if they don’t get used. Luckily, that was never an issue. After serving Zach his morning snack today, I think I have one serving of AC’s left and then they are gone.

So today I decided to make him work for those crackers. After discussing the fabulousness that was the bowl of beans with another mommy friend of mine, she said that she fills a plastic tub up with uncooked rice and has her son look for hidden objects in it. Great. I have a plastic tub. I have a plethora of uncooked rice (actually, another instance of cheap things bought in bulk, only this time gone very, very wrong. It will take us 20 years to eat all the rice I have in this house. Sometimes Costco can be just TOO alluring). So I hid some animal crackers in the rice and told him to hunt for animals.

Creating a future archaeologist, digging for animals

Reaping the benefits of hard work

Oh, and I promise I will not make this a blog of my son playing with random household items in bowls everyday for a year. This just happens to work out for today.

While he hunted for animals (and found them all and asked for more animals) I prepared today’s simple craft. An Animal A. I realize that this A looks more like a Cat, which would be great for the letter C…but I wanted to tie it in to animal crackers and well, this is what I came up with! A is for Animal.

I drew and cut out a simple block A. Then I cut out 3 strips of black paper and cut them in half to make whiskers and 2 triangles to make ears.

An "A" and the trimmings

Then I asked Zach to come help me with some glueing. He decided that sitting on my lap would be more fun for this, so I couldn’t take any pics. And that’s OK, because I’ll sacrifice the beauty of the blog for toddler cuddles. Gotta get ’em in when I can! So, we glued the A to a sheet of white paper. Then we put some glue in the middle of the A and stuck the whiskers on. Then we put some glue at the top of the A for the ears. I wrote “A is for Animal” underneath. And there you have it. An Animal A. And well, even if it looks more like a cat, he’s been saying, “Letter A. Animal Crackers” quite a bit today! I must be on to something.

A is for Animal. Hey, a cat is an animal!

Since Zach loves to sing songs, I totally ripped one off of a toy to sing today–the Leapfrog Fridge Phonics song. It’s not even a toy we OWN. But I’ve seen it at friends’ houses. And the people who lived above us had one. I never saw theirs. But I CAN tell you their daughter played with it EVERY day. And I could hear the song so often I’ll forever have it memorized. So, I sang this with Zach today and he REALLY liked it. We sang it over and over and over again. And the best part, you can do it for every letter of the alphabet. Today we just did “A”. Here are the lyrics:

An “A” says “AH!”
An “A” says “AH!”
Every letter makes a sound
An “A” says “AH!” (and “AY!”)

It’s kind of to the tune of Farmer in the Dell. Very catchy and the kids pick it up really quick.

I’ve also been pointing out letter A’s as we’ve seen them printed today. I’m going to focus on the letter all week and then do another letter the next week and the next. You get the idea. Hopefully this starts to stick.

What did Zach learn today? Hopefully some phonics of the letter A. And what the letter A looks like.

What did Mommy learn today? That there are about a million better ways to dress up the letter A. Like, I could have done animal prints for Animal. Or animal stickers. Or glue the animal crackers to the letter A. Oh well, this is letter of the week, so I can do some more obvious ones too. Like Apple. Or Alligator.


Day 7 (8641-10080m): Superman Sunday April 25, 2010

Filed under: colors,daddy,language development,numbers — Erin Brambilla @ 8:58 pm
Tags: , ,

Sunday has started becoming grocery shopping day for me. Mostly because Pete is home to watch the 3 munchkins and I can go by myself. I’m not opposed or incapable of bringing the 3 of them along. I once went to Target with all 3 kids and tried on a bazillion outfits in the fitting room. Yep. With 2 babies and a 2 year old with me. And nobody cried. It was almost a miracle. Perhaps if I could have  found clothes that fit it would have been an actual miracle, but that’s a story that’s neither here nor there. I digress! At any rate, I went shopping by myself which brings a welcome break for me, plus I can do things about 100 times faster, and Pete gets some bonding time with the kids.

I don’t really know what goes on during these bonding sessions. I do know that he managed to feed and diaper them all appropriately AND straighten the living room. Wow. He’s almost good enough to be me (but don’t tell HIM that). All I know is that when I came home, the 2 babies were cooing away on the playmat and Zach declared himself to be “Superman!!!” and “Daddy a cool dude!” Clearly, sometime in the 2 hours I was gone, a vocabulary lesson took place. After running over to hug me and inspect the wares of the grocery bags, Zach went back to playing the Official Superman Home Game. You know, the one where you run down the hall as fast as you can, into your Daddy’s waiting arms, and he lifts you skyward as you sing-shout, “Superman!!!” It’s just as funny as it is cute!

Running down the hall


Aside from a new game, today’s learning experience is another ingenious, super easy to do activity. Have you ever seen something and thought, “That is SO stinkin’ brilliant, why didn’t *I* think of that???” This is one of those situations. I found it HERE. If you haven’t been to the “No Time For Flashcards” site, go there. Now. The author is probably going to be getting a lot of pingbacks/linkbacks from me because it is FULL of good ideas! Anyhow, for this activity (or as I like to call it, a Cooking Dinner Distraction) all I did was take the magnetic numbers collection I had hidden away and a cookie sheet, put them together and voila! Number learning fun. I nearly threw these numbers out months ago because they don’t stick to our fridge so well, they just kept sliding down to the floor. But, for some reason, I saved them and I’m glad I did. Zach had oodles of fun counting the numbers, grouping the numbers and…well…flinging a few across the kitchen floor!

Magnets grouped by color

I’ll have to find a set of letters to go with the numbers for additional learning opportunities. Oh, and do you think my child has learned the ins and outs of mommy blogging already? As he was working he looked up at me and said, “Camera, mommy?” I think I’m creating a monster!

What did Zach learn? A few new phrases and words. Number recognition. A color lesson. And that Daddy is one “cool dude”. “Awesome!”

What did Mommy learn? Well, that Daddy is actually pretty cool and can handle himself very well with 3 kids. This, of course, I already knew, but a reminder is always refreshing. I also learned that my kid is a total ham and I love it!


Day 6 (7201-8640m): Car Wash April 24, 2010

Filed under: language development,sensory,water play — Erin Brambilla @ 5:48 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Don’t even try to tell me you don’t immediately start singing the song in your head at the very mention (or…reading) of the words “Car Wash”. “(Workin’ at the) car wash. Workin’ at the car wash, yeah!” Try getting THAT out of your head for the rest of the day. We did the car wash at 11:30 this morning. It’s 5:11pm now and I’m still singing it. Welcome to my world.

Today was the kind of day where, if I didn’t have kids, I would have stayed in bed watching movies all day. It’s grey and gloomy and just begs your body to be tired. Unless you’re 2. Then you’re up at the crack of 6:00am anyway. No rest for the wicked in this house! I wondered if I’d have the energy for any special activities today, but after a few time outs (“Zach, put the dog food back please! No! Listen to Mommy, don’t you dare dump that on the carpet!!!”), a few temper tantrums and a few headaches later, I decided the boredom that was leading to bad behavior needed to be stopped STAT. What could possibly work quick enough to salvage this lazy day? Bowls of water and permission to splash in them, that’s what!

I set up a little car wash in the kitchen today, which I read about HERE. Another sensory tub type of exercise, just with the added bonus that his toys were getting cleaned as well. Hey, I’ll take an added benefit when I can! Today’s activity was super simple, but super fun for Zach.

I gathered together 2 bowls, a few garbage bags (to serve as a waterproof drop cloth), some dish soap, a few kinds of scrubbing and drying tools and some water. I asked Zach to take his bucket and gather up his cars. It was time to take them to the car wash.

Today's Supplies

The Set-Up

To make it more than just a splash fest, I decided one bowl should be cold water and one should be warm. The warm one had the soap in it. I thought I might get myself a few seconds to talk about the senses before everything just got mixed up and tepid. So we talked about warm and cold. How the soap smelled. How the scrubbers felt. How the water sounded as it “sloshed” and “splashed”. It was a good effort on my part, LOL! Then it was just time to play.

Scrubbing and rinsing the blue car

Just playing

Oh…pay no heed to dusty floors or toys on the floor in the background. Let that be the answer to your question, “But Erin. How do you manage to have time for all this??” And also, yes…Zach is wearing the same outfit as yesterday. That’s what happens when Daddy dresses him :). At least it was pretty much clean!

This activity kept him busy for about 30 minutes. And in toddler world, that might as well be 2 days.  Then, he was in a much more civil mood afterward and was able to be a civilized person and hang out with Daddy the rest of the day. In fact, it got so quiet around here I wondered what was going on. I stepped outside to find this:

I'm just glad I was upstairs while he wielded the hose with delight!

I guess playing with water was the theme of the day!!

What was in it for Zach? Exploring his senses, as well as something to solve the boredom. I bet even kids need to feel productive!

What did Mommy learn? That water is close to a miracle worker in so many ways :). Bad behavior and tantrums aren’t always about being naughty, sometimes they are just from sheer boredom. And this was so easy to set up, I can see this buying me time to make dinner in the future :).


Day 5 (5761-7200m): Paper Plate Tambourine April 23, 2010

Filed under: Craft,music,sensory — Erin Brambilla @ 4:06 pm
Tags: , , ,

Zach adores music. He also likes to shake things. Paper plate tambourines are like the perfect combination of two loves. Kind of like peanut butter and chocolate (yum).

Today’s activity also came with a bonus! More on that later!!

Today’s supplies:


2 sturdy paper plates, glue dots (or staples & stapler if you have that instead), hole punch, ribbon, scissors, dried beans (or pasta or rice..or whatever..buttons even!), stuff to decorate the plates (we used stickers today).

First, I had Zach put stickers on the back of the paper plates. We had an assortment of stars, happy faces and transportation stickers to play with. Festive!

That's a good spot for a sticker

Hmmm...which one do I want?

After he was done stickering to his heart’s content, I put some beans in a measuring cup and had him pour the beans on the plate. This was FUN.

There's something very satisfying about the "sssssspppp" noise the beans make sliding out of the cup and onto the plate

Beans on a plate. And this time I'm not trying to convince him to eat them (though he did do some of that!).

Now is the part where Mommy has to do some work before any music can be made. And there’s not much more activity to keep the 2-year-old occupied. That is BAD news. If I lose his interest here, the project will be lost. But never fear. A BRILLIANT idea has popped into my head. I only used maybe 1/4-1/2 cup of beans, which means there is practically an entire bag still left! Thanks to my recent research in activities for this age group, I now know about Sensory Tubs. Oh, I am now a BIG fan of Sensory Tubs. So, hence today’s “Bonus” activity was born. And let me tell you, Zach LOVED this. All I had to do was get some sort of a big container, put the sensory objects in (the beans) and let him feel away. I also gave him some cups and scoops. This activity was so much fun for him, that after we were done with the instrument making, I was actually able to unload and load the dishwasher, uninterrupted, while he played with the beans again. Good stuff!!

Beans in a bowl. What's more fun than that? They feel cool, and smooth, and round...kind of like rocks.

Now, while Zach played with the beans, I got to work. First I glue dotted around the plate. In hindsight I should have dotted closer together, some beans did spill out when we shook the final product and I had to go back and sneak them in the spaces (much harder than just putting them on the open plate). Staples would also work well to put the plates together, but we didn’t have any. After I put the two plates together, I hole punched around the plate to lace some ribbons through. The ribbons make it look pretty fun.

Glue dots. I'd do twice as many next time.

Hole punched

Pete will be happy to know that I used some leftover ribbons from our wedding!!

Lacing through

All done. It's a masterpiece.

Now, for the next fun part. A rousing rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star accompanied by the Tambourine.

It was difficult to get a decent pic, too much shakin' goin' on

Oh, the difficult to master "over the head shake". I think I have a prodigy on my hands!

What did Zach learn today? Some shape and color lessons, especially with the star stickers (they were solid colors). He also did some sensory exploration.

What did Mommy learn today? That sensory tubs ROCK. And that any song can be tambourine appropriate, just shake away. Also perfect for kitchen dance parties. These were so much fun, I might come up w/ a wrist rattle version for Em & I to join the band. Oh and I should have read a tutorial like THIS one before starting. I would have known to glue closer together right away!


Day 4 (4321-5760): Earth Mobile April 22, 2010

Filed under: Craft,Earth Day — Erin Brambilla @ 7:51 pm
Tags: , ,

Our project of the day

And that’s mobile as in “baby” and not “Bat”. Just for clarification. Or, perhaps they are more like wind chimes. Whatever. We attached some wood chips and gravel rocks to strings, hung them on a paper plate decorated like the Earth. All in honor of Earth Day. I bet Earth feels super humbled by our actions.

For the most part this was just some outdoor playtime, but I did manage to squeeze a project in.

To show just how Earth Friendly we are, Zach decided to cruise around in his low emissions, fuel-efficient vehicle. This one is a hybrid, powered by feet and rocks. You can see him fueling up with gravel in this one. It’s a bonus in the winter time, he doesn’t even have to get out of the car to fuel up!

Cruising the neighborhood in an Earth friendly car

Emily and Isaac enjoyed some solar-powered tummy time (or perhaps the opposite, since they were in the make shift shade).

Tummy Time. As is typical, Isaac is working at it, Emily decides to sleep.

Now down to the nitty-gritty. I made up this specific design on my own, but was inspired by THIS. But we live in the city, so large, sturdy sticks are hard to come by. I decided to tweak it for our purposes.  For this project I used the following supplies:


A disposable plate (I say it like that b/c I am embarrassed to admit it’s styrofoam on Earth Day), scissors, glue, markers, glitter pens, and remnants of strings and things that can be used to hang items. I actually never used the hole punch, but thought I might.

First Zach and I went around the house to look for sting type items we could use to hang the rocks and wood. I didn’t have any actual string, and in honor of the occasion, thought we could reuse stuff we already had. We used some ribbon from a package (my friend Erin at ECC might recognize that ribbon!) and some shoe lace-y type stuff from another. We also had a red nylon strap that goes to something we can’t find anymore.

Then I had Zach go to the side of our house where there is some gravel. I told him to help me find some rocks. A task he once again enlisted the help of his dump truck and shovel. I tried encouraging some counting skills by saying I needed 2 big pieces, but I was pretty much given one HUGE chunk and a whole dump truck of little pieces. I suppose that works.

That's a big rock!

Gathering rocks

I asked him to help me pick out some pieces of wood from the wood chips. But he decided to pick me a flower instead. And the sweet talk worked because I picked out the two pieces. Then I tied the 2 rocks and the 2 piece of wood to our ribbon and lace. You could put a dot of glue onto each knot, to help secure them further, if you want too.

Picking mommy a flower

Wood chips and gravel all tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things! Julie Andrews eat your heart out!

Then between bites of Oyster Crackers and apples, Zach helped me color the plate we’d hang the strings from. I wanted the plate to kind of resemble planet Earth. I also thought I’d do a lesson in shapes. So I drew some shapes on the plate in green. I arranged them in a “sort of like the continents” fashion–the rectangle for North America. The triangle for South America. Europe and Africa represented by the circle and oval (respectively). Like I said, a loose interpretation, but you get the idea. I thought I’d encourage him to color the shapes green and the stuff around it (the water, I told him, water from the ocean) blue. But pretty much he grabbed every marker in the pack, used every color BUT blue and green and colored his world (so to speak). So, I colored in the shapes. Things got a bit exciting when I busted out the glitter pens. THOSE he was interested in. I traced the continents and helped him make squiggles in the water. It gave it some pizzazz, don’t you think?

Coloring the plate

I colored the "shape continents" green, he colored the "oceans" pretty much anything BUT blue

Things got interesting when we busted out the glitter glue

Ta da! All colored.

Now we had to wait for the glitter glue to dry. That’s why this is posted so late today, had to wait for a finished product to show. Other things we did outside today–chase the neighbor’s cat and try to get it to play catch, sidewalk chalk and riding on our turtle toy. Pretty good stuff all around.

Here kitty, kitty, kitty. Catch!!

Sidewalk chalk: fun to draw with, fun to roll down the stairs

Riding the turtle. No "actual" turtles were harmed during the filming of this play time.

Sign of a good day: some seriously dirty hands.

Finally, after nap, the glue was dry enough to poke some holes in the plate, hang the strings and tie onto the deck.

Looking up at our finished product

Hanging up on our deck

What did Zach learn today? Honestly. I’m not sure. I was hoping for some color and shape lessons. He was not too interested in paying attention today. Though later on he did point out the circle and triangle, so again…perhaps he learned more than I give him credit for.

What did Mommy learn today? That this is not always going to be easy. I wondered if I should give up on the project when he would not help out too much. Though, like I said, once the glitter came out, it did get more fun. And also that doing a project outside that doesn’t involve too many outside things might not be a good idea. Too many other distractions. But, we tried! And that’s what counts!!


Day 3 (2881-4320m): Fire Trucks April 21, 2010

Filed under: fire trucks — Erin Brambilla @ 3:13 pm
Tags: , ,

The Ravenswood Neighborhood Firestation

In “Little Boy World” there is a hierarchy of obsessions. It looks something like this:

1.) Construction Equipment

2.) Fire Trucks

3.) Dinosaurs

4.) Trains

5.) Cookies

Depending on the time of day (and line of sight!), cookies may be number 1, but that’s pretty much how Zach’s order goes anyway.

Today we decided to pay a visit to obsession #2–Fire Trucks!! Our local fire station is very close to us. Until today I never knew that you can just walk right up to your local station and they will give you a tour! Just because you want one! (well, as long as they aren’t busy saving lives or something like that 🙂 ). So, the friendly Fire Fighters down at Engine Company 110 of the CFD kindly let Zach hop up on the truck and the engine today. They also gave him a cookie. I’m not sure which part he liked better (but hey, that covers another obsession!).

We may revisit this activity sometime when Daddy is home to join us. Partly because I think that deep down, even grown men like fire trucks and also because Zach got a little bit shy today. I think with Daddy by his side, he’d be a bit braver and more adventurous. Mommy seems to inspire him to dance and sing. Daddy inspires him to be brave. I almost counted this activity as a “bust”, Zach was so shy. He didn’t want to try on the boots. He didn’t want to talk to the fire fighters. He was just quiet and pretty much glued to my leg. He did get inside the trucks though. Later on, however, he was still talking about it. And when I asked him what we did today, his response was, “Play with Fire Trucks”, so it must have been good!

Sitting on the engine

Inside the truck with fire fighter Danny

Outside the truck

The station with the doors closed and titles on the garage

To supplement our adventure today, we also went to the library and picked up the book Fire Truck by Peter Sis. Zach was very excited to read it before nap time.

As a bonus–the trip to the library will lend itself well for another day’s activity. We checked out the pass to the Chicago Children’s Museum. Man, I love the library! Sometime in the next 7 days (b/c that’s when we have to return the pass), we can all go to the museum for free. Woo hoo!

What did Zach learn today? He learned how big fire trucks are. He also learned that fire fighters are kind, helpful people (who may give you cookies)

What did Mommy learn? That Fire Engines and Fire Trucks are not collectively the same thing. A Fire Engine is the one with the hose and hooks up to the water. A truck (or hook and ladder) is the one with the equipment for search and rescue and things like that. Here’s a good explanation. Zach was told this too….but it may have gone over his head :). I also learned that just because it seems like your child may have been shy, or grumpy, or “out of it”, didn’t mean he didn’t get anything out of the activity.

Tips for other mommies: If you’re this sort of person (and not saying I am…but maybe), there really is something about a fireman that is just “hot”. So, ya know, maybe wear your mascara when you decide to go. And the shirt that isn’t stained with spit up. Er…um…I mean, not saying *I* did this…right…but you might want too.